Chilled foods, for reasons of safety or quality, are designed to be stored at refrigeration temperatures (at or below 8ºC, targeting 5ºC) throughout their entire life.
UK chilled foods receive minimal processing and temperature is the principal controlling factor in their safety. The commercial storage of chilled foods must comply with The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013; The Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/31 (W.5)); and; The Food Hygiene Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 (SR 2006 No 3).
Country Requirements Differ
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland food that is likely to support the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms or the formation of toxins must be kept at a temperature of 8°C or below. The requirement applies to the temperature of the food, not the surrounding air. The requirement applies to foods, including raw materials and ingredients, at all stages of preparation, processing, transport, storage and display for sale within the manufacture, retail and catering sectors. Schedule 4 provides exemptions from the chill holding requirement in defined circumstances for some foods even though they are inherently likely to support the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms or the formation of toxins.
In Scotland the requirements are different. Any person in respect of any commercial operation or food premises who keeps food outwith a refrigerator, a refrigerated chamber or a cool ventilated place is guilty of an offence unless the food is held at over 63ºC. As there is no specific temperature mentioned for the chilling of foods that are likely to support bacterial growth it is recommended that if the food storage place chosen exceeds 8°C then the shelf life of the foodstuff may need to be reduced. Food should be kept at ambient temperature for the shortest time possible. Schedule 4 of the Scottish Regulation does however contain a number of specific exemptions for chill holding.
FSA’s Guidance on Temperature Control Legislation in the United Kingdom was published in May 2016.
Mail Order Chilled
Mail order foods are exempt from the 8°C control but they are subject to the general requirement that the product must not be supplied by the mail-order business at a temperature that might result in a risk to health. There’s further information on mail-order transactions in the Food Industry Guide to Good Hygiene Practice: Mail Order Food.
Manufacturer to Kitchen
From a manufacturing perspective the performance of the proposed distribution chain should be validated and monitored by the responsible party and taken into account when specifying shelf life.
European law requires that food carries labels with clear instructions for storage and use.
Common phrases used on UK chilled foods:
- Store at 5oC max, eat within x days of opening
- Keep refrigerated (taken to mean 8ºC max – legal basis).
Guidelines on the Food Hygiene (Amendment) Regulations 1990 (Department of Health, ISBN 0-11-321369-7)
Chilled and Frozen. Guidelines Cook-chill and Cook-Freeze Catering Systems (1989, Department of Health, ISBN 0-11-321161-9)